I picked up today's book book with a little hesitation. Books featuring animals — in this case, pets — are a little too precious for my taste. And the author's name, Blaize Clement, conjures an aging Southern belle who could no sooner put together a compelling sentence than go out of the house without her hair and nails done.
But, one page into Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues (Thomas Dunne, 248 pages, $23.95), I was not only pleasantly surprised by the writing, but also I wanted to keep reading.
This is Clement's third mystery featuring Dixie Hemingway (no relation), a former sheriff's deputy on Siesta Key, a barrier island west of Sarasota, Fla. Clement's first two Dixie Hemingway mysteries have equally jaunty titles: Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter and Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund.
Dixie's deal is that when her husband, a fellow deputy, and their only child, a little girl named Christy, were killed, she hung up her badge and became a pet sitter. In this third installment, Dixie's out doing her jobs one day and sees that a private security guard at a new client's home has been killed. She leaves the body for someone else to discover, but someone already saw her there.
Here's an example of the writing, which reminded me of that sort of clipped narration you hear in old detective movies:
"I carried my tea to my combination office-closet, where I pulled on clean underwear, a pair of faded jeans, a white T-shirt, and fresh Keds. Then I sat down at the desk and pretended to be businesslike. I checked the answering machine, but it was still too early in the morning for business calls. I squared up some pieces of paper. Then I went back to the bathroom and brushed my teeth again, even though I'd done it earlier at four o'clock. It didn't sweeten the nasty taste of guilt in my mouth. Even with Patsy Cline belting out lyrics designed to make life seem simple, right now mine seemed more complicated than I could handle."